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Herbaria are not simply repositories of plant specimens, they are repositories of a tremendous amount of information. Current technologies provide an opportunity to access this information at an unprecedented scale. The real power of herbaria as research tools can be fully realized when both large and small collections within a broad geographic region are electronically available and searchable.
SERNEC (SouthEast Regional Network of Expertise and Collections) is designed to facilitate this process, by building partnerships, encouraging the utilization of the collective expertise of the network, and assisting herbaria in providing information to the public.
SERNEC is 1) networking the 230 herbaria in 14 states in southeastern North America, 2) developing a strategy for advancing each state's ongoing databasing effort, and 3) working to publish online botanical resources that will be available to scientists, land managers, state and federal agencies, educators and the general public. These data will provide a greater understanding of one of the most botanically diverse regions of the earth and will lead to better research, better management planning and a more well-informed public.
Development of a searchable collective database at a regional scale will provide a powerful research tool, and by combining 150 years of botanical information housed in herbaria in the Southeast with models of past plant migrations and current ecological parameters, we can revolutionize studies in biodiversity, evolution, ecology and systematics. We are also working to link our efforts with those of other regional herbarium groups through the US Virtual Herbarium and with the national biodiversity informatics effort, iDigBio.
This project made possible by National Science Foundation Award 1410069